The presence of immortal cell populations with an up-regulated telomere maintenance mechanism (TMM) is an almost universal
characteristic of cancers, whereas normal somatic cells are unable to prevent proliferation-associated telomere shortening and have a
limited proliferative potential. TMMs and related aspects of telomere structure and function therefore appear to be ideal targets for the
development of anticancer therapeutics. Such treatments would be targeted to a specific cancer-related molecular abnormality, and also
be broad-spectrum in that they would be expected to be potentially applicable to most cancers. However, the telomere biology of normal
and malignant human cells is a relatively young research field with large numbers of unanswered questions, so the optimal design of
TMM-targeted therapeutic approaches remains unclear. This review outlines the opportunities and challenges presented by telomeres and
TMMs for clinical management of cancer.
Keywords: Alternative lengthening of telomeres, cancer, diagnosis, prognosis, telomerase, telomeres, therapy.
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